My grandfather Jay Sheehan was an 18 year old boy from Newton Ma, when
he was drafted and went into the army. These were very difficult
times for my Grandfather's family because two of his older brothers were
already in the war. One was a bomber pilot who was shot down and
killed in France during the war. The other was in the infantry in
Europe and was seriously wounded, losing a arm and eyesight in one eye.
My grandfather was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for basic
training. But this only lasted six weeks because he and his unit
had to be sent overseas as replacements. He was part of the third
army in the 87th Golden Acorn infantry division, the 300 and 47th
infantry regiment company l. The third army was led by one of the
most famous generals, George S. Patton. My grandfather said they
called him old blood and guts - "our blood his guts”.
General George Patton
General George S. Patton is known as one of the most successful United
States field commanders on World War 2. It is said that he always
motivated his troops to the highest standard of excellence.
General Patton and his troops traveled across Europe after the battle
of Normandy and defeated Germany.
My grandfather's company was sent into Belgium in the
Ardennes, which were the
woods in Belgium, right across from the
front lines of the German army. He said that it was very cold day
and night and they told him to dig fox holes, but they
couldn't do it because the ground was frozen and they had to use hand
grenades to make the holes. He remembers staying in the fox hole
for many days and nights with just what he had in his canteen.
Soon after that the Battle of the Bulge began, when the German army
moved forward into the American lines. He remembers constant
noise shelling from tanks and guns. This was one of the most
difficult experiences for him in the war, he lost many friends in this
battle. During the battle of the Bulge the Germans suprise
attacked the U.S. and rapidly moved the back from German lines.
Isolated units provided time for the British to send reserves to secure
the lines to the Meuse and for Patton's third army to hit the Germans
from the south. In this battle the Americans suffered 75,000
casualties . The Germans lost 80,000 to 100,000 and their
strength was impaired. After the Battle of the Bulge the third
army and my grandfather's company moved forward towards Germany.
My grandfather remembers his unit being at one side of the Rhine
River. He looked across the other side to a
wall. My grandfather remembers the words written in Eglish
on that wall, that said “ see Germany and
die”. His company crossed the Rhine River at night, under
heavy shelling. In March of 1945, Patton's 3rd army began its
famous bridge crossing of the Rhine River into Germany. They were
attacked and bombed by a 154 German aircraft from the
Luftwaffe. One of my grandfather's most difficult memories was of
the liberation of Buchenwald. The 87th infantry division was one
of the first American units to liberate one of the Jewish concentration
camps during World War 2. Buchenwald concentration camp was the
one my grandfather came to. This concentration camp was made
famous by the author Elie Wiesel who stayed in the concentration camp
as a boy and later wrote the book Night. My grandfather has bad
memories of the concentration camp and doesn't like to talk about
it. General Patton forced the German citizens in the town to view
the camp, which became common practice. As my grandfather's
company moved forward into Germany, he was shot and wounded in
battle. He had to be operated on in a battle field hospital in
the woods and from there they shipped him back to a hospital in
France. After spending time there he was shipped in a medical
boat to a army hospital in Boston.
German penetration, In the Battle of the Bulge
During the war my grandfather received Various medals and awards.
The medals that he received were the Distinguished service medal, the Bronze
Star, a Purple Heart, the European Campaign Medal, the WW 2 Victory medal, the Army of
occupation Germany Medal, the Combat infantry badge, the Honorable service button,
and the Sharp Shooter badge.
Medals and Awards
After the war
My grandfather was happy to be home but sad because of what happened to
his two older brothers. While he was home he was still recovering
from his wound from the war and was still on crutches. Everywhere
he went he was treated nicely and got tickets to sporting events.
He eventually met my grandmother Marie Sheehan and they had 4
sons. One of which who is my dad, Tom Sheehan. My
grandfather would tell you that the “worst years of his
life” were in the war, but that it also helped him face and deal
with difficulties later on in his life. Nothing seemed as
difficult as his experience during the war.
Now my grandfather is 82 years old and recently moved to North Carolina
to be near his son and my uncle Jim Sheehan. He is still
independent and lives on his own. I am very proud of him and
happy he is my grandfather.
The rest of the pictures are from my father